Installation of sub-surface irrigation on cotton fields at O & E Farms results in far-reaching benefits that ripple across the entire operation.
Water isn't exactly plentiful in the desert, which keeps J.L. Echeverria and Chad Odom, owners of Arizona-based O & E Farms, always on the lookout for ways to stretch their limited supplies. That's the main reason they felt a T-Tape Drip Tape system was the best fit for their operation. Since installing the system on 300 acres of cotton and alfalfa, they have found that on top of reducing the amount of water they use on their farm, the T-Tape system has also brought about secondary benefits that have a positive impact on their operation.
Across-the-Board Savings Help Offset System Costs
The conversion to drip took around 3 ½ months to complete and went smoothly from start to finish. One benefit Odom noticed right away, in addition to significant savings on the labor side, is a reduction in heavy tillage on drip-irrigated fields.
Echeverria observed differences in their cotton crop. "The cotton defoliated easier because we weren't oversaturating and overfertilizing the soil. It was much easier to get the crop to cut out and take down."
Both owners are confident the T-Tape system will deliver a good return on investment because of reduced water, energy and labor costs. Additionally, precise control over nutrient and water placement and reduced trips across the field for weed control and tillage will help offset the costs of the system. Thanks to across-the-board savings, Echeverria and Odom hope to pay for their system in three to five years and plan to convert over more acreage in the future."
Yield Increases Relative to the Amount of Water Used
When asked to make a yield comparison for drip irrigation versus conventional irrigation, Echeverria offers a unique perspective when it comes to growing cotton.
"I think there is a dramatic yield increase relative to the amount of water you use," says Echeverria. "If you simply want to look at it as how much cotton you can grow on this ground with an unlimited supply of water, compared to what you can grow with drip, I am not sure there is a yield increase. I am a strong believer that the right way to look at water out here in the desert is how much water you are using per unit of production. In that respect, there is a yield increase. It is just not per acre; it is per unit of water."
Taking Care of the Investment
Echeverria advises performing routine maintenance on the tape and keeping emitters clean to keep the system running smoothly. Occasionally, he has to flush his lines and add sand because of the hard water at O & E Farms. For the most part, however, he says the filter does an excellent job of keeping the system clean.
"The T-Tape Drip Tape system has changed our approach to farming and managing the crop," says Echeverria. "We expect to enjoy its benefits for many years to come as long as we take good care of our investment."